27 May U-Pick Oranges in the Sunshine State
Juice ran down our arms as we peeled back the rind; we quickly hustled to lean out the car doors. These were some of the juiciest, freshest oranges we had ever encountered. We just picked our own oranges from the U-Pick orange grove, and it was definitely a mistake to peel one after getting into the car. Thankfully, they were the best oranges we had ever tasted, so we soon forgot all about the mess we created.
Picking oranges is one of my favorite activities in Florida—I love wandering the seemingly endless groves and picking oranges directly off the trees. Our go-to orange picking location was the Showcase of Citrus in Clermont, which is about a half hour outside of Orlando. This adorable farm is 2,500 acres and home to around 70 varieties of oranges; it also has a cute country store, to die for orange/tangerine slushies, and a swamp safari/eco tour.
The country store has rows and rows of locally made jams, jellies, honeys, sauces and other treats, and already picked oranges if you don’t feel like wandering the groves yourself. But, I hope you don’t come all this way to just buy oranges from the store—the best part about the experience is the delicious smell of oranges out in the grove.
Before you head out to pick your own oranges, make sure to head to the back of the store where there is usually a tray with orange samples waiting to be tasted. This will show you what’s in season and you can discover which varieties you like best—tasting the samples always gets me excited to head out and pick my own.
Also, don’t forget to grab a bag for your pickings. The bags have a map attached to the outside, which shows you where the different varieties are located and in what season they grow. There are two sizes of bags, and it’s not hard at all to fill them. Every visit, we fill our bags way too full with “just one more”, and we end up having oranges coming out our ears for the next couple of weeks!
My favorite oranges are the Honey Bell, but we never seem to visit during their very limited picking season. The other two varieties I enjoy most are the Red Navel Oranges and the Fallglow Tangerines, but really, no matter which variety is in season, you really can’t go wrong with fresh oranges. Most oranges are in season for a few months between October and April. Since the summer heat is so brutal in Florida, there aren’t many oranges available for picking during the summer months, but Showcase of Citrus is still open year-round.
The swamp safari/eco tour takes you on the world’s largest 4×4 for a half hour tour around the estate. You learn about Native Florida plants and animals as well as the history of the orange grove. The estate’s wildlife consists of zebra, watusi, water buffalo, alligators, snakes, birds and more. We haven’t taken the tour, but I have heard good things about it—it might be something we will check out the next time we are visiting.
When you are paying for the bushels of oranges you picked, make sure to try a World Famous Orange Juice Slushy, as well—you can get orange, tangerine or a mix of both. I am addicted to the orange and tangerine mix; they are that good.
And, if you decide to peel an orange before leaving, just make sure to stand outside your car…I’m warning you!
Do you ever visit U-Pick Farms? Which ones have you been to?